Sailing Basics: Sailing Against The Wind Part 3

Link to Part 2

How Do I Hoist The Jib Sail?

Fully Hoisted Jib Sail, Hoisted Jib

Fully Hoisted Jib Sail

In a lot of ways, hoisting the jib is much like the process of hoisting the mainsail. On boats less than 20 ft in size, the jib can be hoisted while the boat is still fitted onto the dock.

Be certain that the jib’s sheets are as slack as can be so that it will allow the sail to luff without filling while you are in the process of hoisting. Additionally, hoisting the jib while already sailing is very typical. The best way to perform a hoist, especially when on larger keelboats, is by making sure the boat bow is pointed in the direction that gives it the boat a tailwind( sailing downwind). Reason being is that if your sailboat is going upwind(headwind), the flaps begin to ripple and catch onto the mast while you are hoisting, which can cause a problem. Additionally, hoisting the jib sails with the wind coming from behind the boat allows the mainsail to block the wind from getting trapped in the jib sail. This method works with any sized jib. 

Once the sail is properly hoisted, you will want to then pull on the jib’s sheet inward + cleat it, ahead of changing the direction of the boat and beginning a different route. Make certain that the sheets are free and unencumbered so you don’t get surprised by the sail filling itself.  If your jib is utilizing luff tape/rope, get someone in your group to stand around the bow of the boat to help in feeding the luff rope into the forestay’s groove. You won’t need to do this if your jib has snaps or hanks since these are to be linked when you are rigging.


Sail Knots- How Do I Avoid Rope Catastrophe?


Keep lines/ropes organized and ready

Once the hoisting is done, we need to make sure your boat doesn’t look like it was attacked by The Flying Spaghetti Monster (Thank you Drexel U). You may feel overwhelmed by all the lines, especially when you are first getting your sailing legs.

The best way to avoid chaos is to premeditate line organization and cleanliness. What I mean by this is try to take the time before setting sail to make sure there aren’t any crazy knots that may constrain you and bog you down when the time comes to pull on them and let out that “crucial line” while sailing. If you ignore this rule, karma will begin to pop its head up, you will eventually need a line that will have a knot in it and it will throw off your timing and possibly your crew

Halyard line


members into the ocean! Treat your lines as you would want to be treated! When you are organized and clean things tend to go smoothly. Same with all the sheets, lines, ropes and cables. You will be much safer in the long run. That moment where you need to let out the mainsheet when a big wind gust engulfs your area, the speed, and smoothness of which you let out the sails can make or break you.


While sailing, you won’t tinker much with halyards, so tuck them away from the other ropes so that you avoid tangling with the trim lines (the lines you use to pull in) the sails. However, when you are storing away a line in a big duffle bag, make sure that you pack it away by starting at one of the very ends of the line (let’s say halyard ) and try to be as orderly as possible when feeding the halyard into the duffle. If you aren’t using a bag, the best thing to do is to coil the line and then store somewhere where it can’t get tangled. We would suggest starting the coil from a few feet down from where it is fitted into a cleat. After you are done coiling, take your hand and put it through the coil and pull part of the line nearest the cleat between a coil, spiral it around twice or three times and make a final loop over the cleat. That way when you go to use the line, it’s readily available and easy to unravel. DO NOT OVER-TIE IT! You will thank us when tides unexpectedly get rough and you need to get going and use it immediately.

Ropes such as dock rope get put away a little bit differently. Begin at one of the far ends and make bigger loops, at least 3 feet in diameter, until you reach about 6 ft left of rope on the opposite end. Next, make 5 tight loops around the coils throat. Finally, take the doubled end and squeeze it through, then over the topside of the coil. watch the video below for a demonstration:


Luffing- Don’t Fear the Luff, Especially Not At The Dock!

Sit Under Boom Sail, Sit Under Boom

Sit Under Boom

Ok, so you’ve hoisted the sails courageously and your boat is still sitting at the dock by the bay. What happens next will sound pretty loud. The luffing of the sails will make many sailors squirm and really get worried for what is about to come. The boom will begin to rotate wildly. So what should you do?

The first thing you need to do is refrain from panicking and agitation. You will want to get lower than the boom so find a spot to sit where you aren’t in the boom (booms arc) or sail’s way. Listen to the old Otis Redding song “Sitting at the dock of the bay” and just relax! If you are into the new school you may be privy to the Timberlake remake of the song. Take a long deep breath. You need to get used to this luffing process because every time you are ready to set sail you will go through it!

Luffing Sails: When does it start? What is Trimming?

The luffing part of the sail begins to flap when the wind blows directly on its surface from the front side to the back side. This is similar to when a flag ripples in the wind.  The opposite of luffing would be trimming which is when you are forcibly stopping the luff by making the sails point at an angle facing the wind, filling them with the wind. Sailing in a no-sail area will luff the sails despite attempting to trim the sails. You’ll know when your sails are completely luffing when your sailboat completely stops. It will typically coast gradually then stop immediately at full luff. So luffing is much like a broken system in your car.  You press the breaks by pulling out the jib sheets and main sheets.


Trimming wind


Parts of a Sailboat: How/When Do I Steer a Sailboat With a Tiller or Wheel?

Every single sailboat will come with a rudder or a rudder rig. This rudder acts as the submerged fin that directs/turns the boat toward its destination point. The rudder is connected to a tiller or a steering wheel, which you guessed it, steers the fin, which turns the boat. So let’s talk more in depth about these two steering systems.

You will typically see sailboats bigger than 28 ft are crewed with a steering wheel system. Sailboats under 28 Ft are crewed with a tiller system.  With a steering wheel system, the wheel is in charge of positioning your rudder in the right place. When you rotate the wheel counterclockwise or left, the boat will turn left. The wheel is mechanically linked to the rudder and so left means left and right (clockwise) means right. When riding a dinghy or small keelboat, You will typically see a tiller system in place. This system may take you a while to get that hang of because naturally when you turn it right, it the rudder will move right facing, in the direction to push the boat along to the left! Same with the other side So the boat goes in the opposite direction of which way the tiller is moved. Crazy right! Many use wind vane steering (like this one by Sailomat)  to automate steering in that it self steers. Check out this video!



Skipper Sailing- Who is Steering The Boat?!

Tiller, Tiller Boat


Although you may think of the person at the helm doing the steering the driver, The nautical term sailors love to throw around is the Skipper or even sometimes the (helmsman/helmswoman). Helm is also the name of the actual steering device (rudder/tiller or rudder/wheel)

Tiller Vs Wheel- Steering Strength

We hope the next paragraph will give you a sense of what you are dealing with so you won’t second guess yourself when at the helm of your sailboat! The analog sticks!

When it comes to steering, there really isn’t much of a difference to the systems on your car/truck. When a car is in idle it can be difficult to turn the car, but when the car picks up speed, the car becomes much easier to turn. In a boat, once you pick up speed, the wheel or tiller becomes much less rigid, giving you arc strength to turn the boat much more efficiently. When your boat is just past idle, you’ve got to give it a good push and hold it to keep the rudder in place for an extended period of time


Tiller or Wheel- Which Do I Pick?

This really is an easy decision based on two major factors- How big is the boat and what kind of sailing do you want to experience?

Just like in a car, if you working a stick shift (manual) you get a better sense of changing gears which gives you a better feel as to what the car is doing. Same goes with a tiller, without necessarily popping any clutches. You in a sense, are the steering system because you will feel all the sensitivities and water pressure as it flows below your boat around your rudder. We love this kind of steering. With a wheel, it is almost as though you may feel a sense of being on autopilot for the majority of the trip. It may be easier, feel smoother and may take up less deck space, but for most of us sailors, it is less exciting.  It has loads of different parts/connections that equates to a lot more internal friction than the tiller system. For larger boats over 30 Ft, Tilling would be quite the struggle for most sailors because the rudder system is typically bigger (bigger fin)  which is why you hardly see these bigger boats utilizing a rudder. But if you can help it and your boat is small enough we suggest going with a tiller for pure sailing fun!
Steering boat, Steer wheel sailboat, sailboat steering

Sailing Basics- Where do I Sit When Steering A Sailboat?

This answer will vary based on a few different factors! You can tell a lot about a sailor based on where they maneuver around while at the helm! A lot of times you can tell who are frequent sailors and who isn’t based on just this alone! You want to appear like you’ve got it under control to your crew members and to neighboring boats, just like posting up in that Cadillac that you quickly made your baby!  Try using these pointers if you can:

  1. For dinghy sailing, be mindful of your weight when thinking about how to optimally balance and steer the boat- Sitting down in a dingy is crucial to actually keep the windward winds one either side of the boat to counter the tipping forces of the sails, best known as heeling.
  2. For keelboat or dingy sailing, make sure to sit nearly right in front of the butt end of the tiller so that you can effortlessly move it along its arc path. Majority of boats nowadays will come with what is called an extension for your tiller, which gives you the ability to not be as close to the tiller housing and more along the far sides of the boat. This makes for better comfort when at the helm since the sides of the boats will probably utilize some cushioned seats! It attaches to the end of the tiller and is exactly what it sounds like. It also makes you look like you know what you are doing!
  3. When your keelboat has a steering wheel, try either standing or sitting back behind it. If you are not comfortable with that position try positioning yourself to the right or left of it. With an example of a keelboat/tiller system, sit on opposite sides so you can have enough visibility and control over. Stay comfortable! Keeping most of the body weight on the high side of the sailboat helps to counter strong windward winds that may cause the boat to tip over. Always keep this in mind.
  4. If you are dealing with some blind spots on the boat while sails are hoisted or if the cockpit is too high, try maneuvering around a little bit and make sure to check blind spots for any hazards that may be ahead. Also, let your crew know to keep an eye out for any other boats or any kind of object that may cause harm to your boat. This responsibility falls on the boat owner!

Sailing Crew- Where Should Crew Members position themselves on deck?

Sail crew, crew position, sailboat crew, crew members, skipper

The crew working in front of Skipper

A sailing crew plays a pivotal role when it comes to keeping the boat from heeling! Balance on board is crucial to having a safe, fun and effective journey.

Typically, your crew will position themselves in front of the person at the helm/skipper. Crews can help in many ways. One way by sail trimming when the time calls for it. Crews can help also by shifting their own weight on the outer edges of the deck. In times where the where the sailboat is lighter and smaller, or when the boat has a tailwind, the crew should usually take a position on the opposite side of the skipper in order to keep the weight as balanced as possible. If you are riding a boat larger than 30ft and you have a crew that’s fairly a good size (5 or more), divvy up the work and delegate so that everyone has a role (whether a solo job or a job that needs a team effort.

* As the skipper takes the helm and is steering the boat, all other jobs are usually up for grabs! The bigger the boat, the less shifting weight on deck makes much of a difference when trying to balance the wind forces to avoid tipping over.

Staying safe on a sailboat- Danger zones to avoid

Forward Tarp, Boom Tent,

Forward Tarp/Boom Tent: Link

There are a few areas on deck you should probably steer clear from. We would make sure to identify these areas before even stepping foot on board! They are:

  1. Like standing in front of a golfer’s swing plane, you should always avoid standing on the boom’s arc/plane. Make sure not to get tangled in the boom vangs or main sheets which link to the boom! It can feel like getting stuck in a mutant-sized cobweb, and you will eventually slip!
  2. You should never STAND near on the bow or stern of the boat. Feel free to lay and soak the sun in but be prepared to be thrown off board if you are standing on either side. Always remember to use handrails if you have them around the cockpit. Boat motion is typically emphasized at the ends of the boat.
  3. Stay out of the way of the sails and sheets ( jib sail especially) when tacking the sailboat. Reason being is because when you are tacking, the headsails tend to ripple in the wind, and the sails and ropes turn it into a live whipping fest! Range to avoid would be from the foredeck to where the jib sheets are pulleyed around the cockpit.
  4. Anytime the boat is pushing your sailboat towards a side, do not stand on that side! It’s simple. The leeward side is especially dangerous when the boat is swaying in a certain direction from the wind forces (also known as heeling). Naturally, when you are on the leeward side of the boat you are close to water. So fight these forces of gravity and try to stand away from the leeward spots.
  5. When it starts to downpour, use a forward tarp so that you can keep the cockpit as dry as possible so that you don’t slip.

Link to Part 2





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